On Thursday night I received an email from Schlitterbahn, the water park in New Braunfels that we travel over 1000 miles to visit every year.
We have annual passes so I figured it was a thank you for being a loyal guest. But then I started to read.
I immediately Googled, found an article with the details and texted it to Sharon. Her response was the same as the one in my head. It’s four letters long and something that I won’t write on the blog because we’re (usually) pretty family-friendly around here.
We’re getting ready to make our yearly trip Schlitterbahn, and this news has been running through my head. I decided the best way to express my feelings was to write the CEO of Cedar Fair.
June 17, 2019
Richard Zimmerman, President and CEO of Cedar Fair
Dear Mr. Zimmerman:
Congratulations on Cedar Fair’s acquisition of the Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort in New Braunfels, Texas and the water park in Galveston. After reading the news, I have only one thing to ask of you and the Cedar Fair company.
Please do not ruin my favorite water park!
I’m sure that Cedar Fair did not spend $261 million dollars on these properties to ruin them and destroy their value. Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels has won the Golden Ticket award for Best Water Park from Amusement Today for the last 21 years. All you really need to do to keep the streak going is to not mess things up.
I just wanted to share my story as a way for you to understand what makes these parks, and particularly the park in New Braunfels, so special.
We are Schlitterbahn annual pass holders even though we live over 1000 miles away in Orlando, Florida. We have some of the best water parks in the world right in our backyard, each just a 15 or 20-minute drive from our house. There must be something about Schlitterbahn New Braunfels that causes us to make the trek to the Texas Hill Country once or, more recently, twice every summer.
Every time we get asked why we fly halfway across the country to visit a water park, we give the same answer. Because Schlitterbahn is unlike any other water park in the world. The way the parks wind along the river, looking like they’ve always been there. Like they belong there. You can’t explain it to people.
The way the tube chutes carry you across the park through the mature oak trees. How you get stuck in a current and have to develop team-building skills with other park guests so everyone can continue down the ride. How you go under, through and around the resort, eventually ending up down at, or even dumped into, the river.
Then there’s the other park, which has what may be the best water slide ever, the Master Blaster.
Walking into the park in the morning, with families carrying their coolers and shopping bags full of snacks, you know this is a place where people gather together. Entire summers are spent there. It’s where kids learn how to swim. It’s where you go to relax during a sweltering hot summer afternoon. Schlitterbahn is simply put, Texas.
It’s also the place where Sharon learned how to body board on Boogie Bahn. This is her during her lesson:
When she went back that day, she was able to get onto her knees and the entire crowd started cheering. Even more than for the show off teenagers who have been riding it since they were born.
These examples are just from me and my wife. We have many memories we’ve made over the years at Schlitterbahn and I’m sure there are stories from other families and many more memories that cover several generations.
I read an article saying that Cedar Fair is planning on investing an additional 15 million dollars into the New Braunfels and Galveston properties over the next 2-3 years to improve the food and beverage offerings and accommodations. I can’t disagree with your initial assessment with those areas needing immediate improvement. We don’t stay on the property because the rooms look like they haven’t been renovated since they were built. As far as the food, some variety would be welcome, but don’t change too much because we’ve just discovered the wonder that is Frito Pie.
In all, what I’m asking is for you and the team who will be running the Schlitterbahn parks to take the time to understand why people love these parks and how they’ve managed to stay open for 40 years.
Take a few days. Go to the H-E-B or Walmart and fill up the cooler with sandwich meat, some drinks and a Frito-Lay variety pack. Go for a ride on a tube and get pulled out of a swirling current by some high school or college kid working their summer job. Spend time with the people who come to your park and see what they want.
Sure, it would be nice if the chipped plaster was fixed in some of the tunnels, or if the lazy river didn’t have as many leaves and dead bugs, or even if the rooms were more modern and you could buy something to eat something besides a burger, hot dog or barbecue, but that’s not what matters to people. If it was, they would have stopped going a long time ago. You’ve just purchased the memories of an entire generation of Texans, not just a bunch of swimming pools, water slides and tube chutes.
If you remember that, I think you’ll be OK.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary